A Racist Heritage?

Posted on March 23, 2008



By SV Singam


When I was very young, I was blissfully unaware about race. I mean, I knew that others were Chinese or Malay or whatever, but that was a matter for curiosity only. The difference of race, or religion for that matter, was not an issue with us. We made friends, selected teams for games, visited each other, got into trouble… irrespective of race. As I grew up, I continued to wear rose-tinted glasses. I was one of those fortunate enough to get a place in our local university and didn’t really suffer from the encroaching NEP policies. 

At MU, I did observe NEP implementation disparities but it did not cause me to become racist, in that I still treated everyone the same irrespective of race. But along the way, my ideals took a battering. I woke up to the reality that remaining unbiased was only contributing to the already skewed environment. I made a conscious decision to address the imbalance whenever it came my way. I still interacted freely with all races but my charitable contributions only went to Indians. Other factors being equal, I’d give priority to the indian who needed the job or my business or whatever. I had become a racist, in the full sense of the word. 

This is the real impact of the BN implementation of the NEP. Even the most idealistic of persons can get skewed to some extent or other. Given this environment, the current behaviour of the former oppositionists and their supporters should be no surprise. They are in an unfamiliar situation – forming a state government. Pre-elections, everyone got swept along on the vote-irrespective-of-race wave but the real motivation for many was to simply kick BN butt. Despite the pre-elections rhetoric, DAP, PKR and PAS were startled by the massive vote of confidence they had received. And it went to their heads. 

The people may have voted irrespective of race in GE12 but do not imagine that all of their racist feelings had suddenly been washed away overnight. When the euphoria of victory had subsided, the old racist anxieties came to the fore. Then bargaining along race and party lines ensued. Many of the arguments were presented under the guise of meritocracy or equality but one didn’t need to scratch very deep to discover the racist undertone. 

The arguments that ensued in the blogosphere were fired up by two factors – news reports in the MSM as well as the alternate media that remained couched in racial language, and a new-found freedom to speak about race related issues. These kinds of argument are not going to die down anytime soon. So long as they remain in the virtual world, they serve as therapy. But things need to improve as we move along. The MSM may be a lost cause but I do hope influential blogs and, especially, Malaysiakini, can temper the language used and help leach the racial vitriol out of our exchanges. 

Another, more serious matter is at hand. Ever the opportunist, Anwar is riding on the remnants of the people-wave to pick up enough frogs from the BN to form his federal government. The voters are in two minds about this development. A large number are aghast that the BR government they voted for is going to become diluted by BN turncoats. Others are angry because it appears that the BR government is going to be just as unprincipled as the BN. But there are also those who support what Anwar is doing. They feel that the BR was cheated out of an outright victory and that any means to recapture what was stolen is fair. 

And that is the reality of a democracy. It is the politicians job to convince the electorate that what he promises to deliver is what the people want. The people have that single opportunity to state their case. Having voted, they are pretty much bereft of power, until the next elections. Meanwhile, the politicians who have been elected to office play their own power games, plotting and strategising and maneuvering to obtain maximum advantage. We can petition them, e-mail them, march or protest, but they are still free to do whatever they will. We can only hope that they do not deviate too much from the path we had set for them. 

The consequences of GE12 are still rolling out. We haven’t seen everything yet. There may even be a few more shocks in store. Hopefully, whatever happens, this fledgling democracy is allowed to mature in its time. We may eventually reach a state where we can truly call ourselves non-racial.